Shop back in time 100 years with 7 of Alabama’s oldest retail stores

Harrison Brothers Huntsville
Take in the history (and do a little window shopping) at Alabama’s oldest retail stores. Photo via Harrison Brothers Hardware

Continuing the celebration of Alabama’s 202nd birthday, today we’re talking shopping! We’ve got seven of Alabama’s oldest retail stores, from drugstores to jewelers to grocers.

1. Harrison Brothers Hardware Store

Harrison Brothers Huntsville Storefront
Photo via Harrison Brothers

The oldest hardware store in the state, Harrison Brothers Hardware is a must-visit on your next trip to Huntsville. The shop was first a tobacco store in the 1870s, and following a fire in 1901, James and Daniel Harrison reopened as a hardware store. Now the store is part store, part museum, part time-travel chamber. The second you step foot in the door, you feel like you’re in the early 1900s again.

  • Location: 124 Southside Square, Huntsville, Alabama 35801
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday 10AM-5PM
  • Website | Facebook

2. Brombergs

Bromberg'S Oldest Retail Stores
Bromberg’s. Photo via Bham Now.

Alabama’s oldest retail store, Bromberg’s Jewelers was founded in 1836 in Mobile by Prussian immigrants (yes, the store is so old Prussia still existed) and is now a whopping 185 years old. Bromberg’s moved to Birmingham in 1900, not long after the city was established. Now they have locations in Mountain Brook and The Summit, where they continue to serve clients.

  • Location: 2800 Cahaba Road, Mountain Brook, AL 35223
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday, 9:30AM-5:30PM
  • Website | Facebook | Instagram

3. Milner-Rushing Drugs

Milner-Rushing Drugs in Florence is one of the oldest drugstores in the state, and thus one of the oldest retail stores. First opened in 1853, the store has served the Florence community for generations. Plus, they also offer the COVID-19 vaccine right now, so it’s a great way to learn about Alabama history while getting your shot.

4. Greer’s Markets

Side Of Greer'S Downtown Mural.
Side of Greer’s downtown mural in Mobile. Photo via Liv George for The Bama Buzz.

Alabama’s oldest grocery store, Greer’s was among the first in Alabama to run on a self-service basis, which lowered costs and increased the store’s popularity. Greer’s began in Mobile in 1916, and five generations later is still owned and operated by the Greer family. The store expanded to 28 total supermarkets today in three states in the South, including Alabama.

5. Butler-Truax Jewelers

Butler Diamonds And Fine Jewelry Oldest Retail Stores
Pop in Butler-Truax Jewelers in Selma. Photo via Butler Diamonds and Fine Jewelry

Now known as Butler Diamonds and Fine Jewelry, Bulter-Truax Jewelers is one of the oldest retail stores in the state. According to the current owner Doris Butler, the store can be traced back to the 1850s in Selma, and possibly back into the 1840s, but census records get a little spotty around then. Over 100 years later, the store still provides Selma with timeless jewelry pieces.

6. Douglas Brothers Jewelry

Douglas Brothers Jewlery Oldest Retail Stores
There’s always a good reason to stop by a jewelry store, and the history just adds to the charm. Photo via Douglas Brothers Jewelry

Since 1871, Douglas Brothers Jewelry has served the Troy area with fine jewelry. The family owned and operated store began as a watch repair shop, and still offers highly experienced jewelry repair today. After the family’s great-grandfather retired, two of the Douglas brother’s bought the store from their father and renamed it Douglas Brothers.

7. Ensley-Fairfield Mattress Company

Ensley Fairfield Mattress Company
The original Ensley Fairfield Mattress Company. Photo via Ensley Fairfield Mattress Company

The Holtzclaw family opened a mattress factory in Ensley in 1915 and named the new company Ensley Fairfield Mattress. The building had dirt floors, and they used a Model T to make deliveries around the Birmingham area. The store has been passed down through three generations of the same family, and continues to sell mattresses today.

Now with storefronts in Pelham and Homewood, you can see a few of the relics of mattress making of old, like a Toledo scale used to weigh cotton.

If you want to visit all of these spots, here’s your itinerary for an Alabama historical shopping trip:

  1. Harrison Brothers
  2. Milner-Rushing Drugs
  3. Brombergs
  4. Ensley-Fairfield Mattress Company
  5. Butler-Truax Jewelers
  6. Douglas Brothers Jewelry
  7. Greer’s Market

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Claire Hancock
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